Understanding mental health

When we talk about mental health, we mean anything that relates to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. So, the term “mental illness” refers to any condition that has a negative effect on those aspects of our lives.


Mental and physical health

Mental health and physical health are equally important. They can impact one another, so it’s key to pay attention to both.

  • Depression can increase the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
  • Chronic diseases can increase the risk of depression.
  • Loneliness increases the risk of premature death, cognitive decline, and hospitalization.
  • Serious mental illness can reduce life expectancy by 10-20 years – the same or worse than smoking.

Silence the shame

Whatever the diagnosis, it’s important to remember that a mental illness is a medical condition. Just as you would consult a doctor to treat a sinus infection or broken bone, you should do the same with a mental health concern. Seeking help when you need it is something to be proud of!

Did you know?

  • Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental disorders in the U.S.
  • There are people available 24/7 ready to talk if you’re having suicidal thoughts.
  • By adjusting a few daily habits, you can positively affect your emotional well-being and feel more content, resilient, and empowered.

Fast facts

Depression, anxiety, and suicide touch every age group and occur throughout Arizona’s communities. All of our state’s population segments are affected.

    • 8.4% of American adults have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. A major depressive episode or disorder is also called clinical depression. It is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in daily activities.
    • Major depressive episodes and anxiety disorders are more common in women than in men. Women are about twice as likely as men to experience major depression.
    • Major depressive episodes are most common among adults aged 18–25.
    • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults every year.
    • In 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students in the U.S. reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, mental health was getting worse among high school students.
    • 42% of high school students felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row that they stopped doing their usual activities.
    • 22% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide that year.
    • 40% of Arizona youth felt their mental health was not good during the pandemic, while 36% reported poor mental health in recent times.
    • A quarter of adolescents in Arizona have thought about taking their lives in the past 12 months.


    Of the Arizona adolescents who thought about taking their lives in the past 12 months, nearly 70% had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs).

    The CDC describes ACEs as potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood that could impact health and well-being.

    Common ACEs include:

    • Childhood abuse, which includes emotional, physical, and sexual abuse
    • Neglect, both physical and emotional
    • Household challenges, such as being exposed to substance abuse, mental illness, violence, parental separation or divorce, or having a relative in prison

    There is a strong connection between ACEs and the likelihood that a person will develop any of a wide range of health problems throughout life, including those associated with substance misuse.

    In Arizona, recent data shows the most prevalent ACEs among children up to 17 years old are divorce or separated parents (25.3%) and lacking basics like food or housing (13.4%). The Arizona Department of Health Services maintains updated information on ACEs.


    In 2021, Arizona students in 10th grade reported being bullied more than their peers, and electronic bullying increased for 9th, 10th, and 12th graders from 2019.

    Bullying can cause feelings of rejection, exclusion, isolation, and low self-esteem, and some individuals can develop mental health conditions like depression and anxiety as a result.

    Those who bully others may also engage in violent and risky behaviors in adulthood. In addition, they may be more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, get into fights, drop out of school, engage in early sexual activity, have criminal convictions, and be abusive to their partners or children.

    No one deserves to be bullied. For tips on how to stand up for yourself, stand up for others, and protect yourself from cyberbullying, visit: ADHS - (

  • Maternal Mental Health Conditions

    They can happen to anyone.

    • Many have heard of the term “postpartum depression,” but there is a range of maternal mental health conditions that are lesser known. In fact, maternal mental health conditions can occur during pregnancy, not only the first 12 months following childbirth.
    • It is completely normal to feel ups and downs during and after pregnancy. Your hormones are changing suddenly and drastically! It’s bound to cause shifts in mood.
    • “Baby blues” are feelings of sadness that you may feel the first few days after having a baby, and about 80% of new parents experience this. But if these types of feelings last longer than two weeks, speak up.

    Reach out to your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

    Perinatal or postpartum depression: Debilitating sadness or low mood that affects someone during pregnancy (known as pregnancy depression), within the first 12 months of having a baby (known as postpartum depression) or both.  

    Pregnancy or postpartum mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD): Distressing feelings that occur during pregnancy and throughout the first year after pregnancy. People with postpartum anxiety may feel consumed with worry and constantly nervous or panicked, interfering with everyday living.  

    Pregnancy and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): OCD symptoms that start or worsen around the time of pregnancy or delivery. Obsessions can involve the fear of harm coming to the unborn or newborn infant. Compulsions that are meant to control or stop the obsessional thoughts could include checking on the baby, excessive washing, repeating prayers, or constant requests for assurances. 

    Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Also known as birth trauma. It is a type of anxiety disorder that can be caused by traumatic events during labor or childbirth. Signs and symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling. 

    Postpartum psychosis (PPP): A serious mental illness that can affect someone soon after having a baby and should be treated as a medical emergency. Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, a manic mood, a low mood, and behaving in a way that is out of character. The illness can risk the safety of the mother and baby. 

    The Arizona Department of Health Services reports that almost half of all pregnancy-associated deaths between 2016 and 2018 were related to mental health conditions or substance use disorder. Of these deaths, nearly all were preventable.

    If you’re not feeling like yourself, reach out to your doctor or call or text the National Maternal Health Hotline: 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746)

Mental Health First Aid

Get trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). The training provides the tools to assist and give initial support to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use concern or crisis. Blue Cross® Blue Shield® of Arizona offers training to Arizona businesses and their employees.